By: Dr. Summer Beattie | By the time this publishes, school will be back in session. As our family embarks on another educational milestone – our oldest daughter is starting Kindergarten! I’m thinking more and more beyond just the Three R’s (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic and instead toward the impacts her time at school will have on her as a whole person. Will her education guide her to be a kind and empathetic individual who is responsible and self-disciplined? Will she have freedom to be creative or locked into a rigid industrial paradigm that perhaps turns out good grades but doesn’t poise her to face our ever changing world?
I first started thinking about these things when I heard Sir Ken Robinson speak on TED. In fact, I’m not alone in having been captured by his speech – his 2006 video is the most viewed ever in TED’s history! His mission is “to transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence.” But how? To be honest, I think it’s a difficult task. One that involves a complete re-invention of how we do school in this country. We all know fabulous teachers, administrators and support staff who are doing the very best that they can for our kids, but who are often forced to teach a certain way because of the standards, rules and regulations of an archaic system of education. We are lucky enough to live in a “small” community, where these educators are also our friends and neighbors. So I encourage you to get to know your child’s teacher. Ask how you can help. Be present in the school, volunteering when and where you can. Begin the change you want to see in your child’s school.
I’ve always gravitated toward what is often called “peaceful parenting”….not because I’m good at it but because I believe in it. So my reading list has been dominated this year by some of the best authors on the subject, and I’ll list a couple at the end. Many mistake this for “permissive parenting” – it is not. Boundaries still exist, and consequences of poor choices are real. What peaceful parenting allows instead is the space for validation of your child’s feelings within the context of the boundaries that have been set.
Peaceful parenting allows for development of will and encourages children to want to make right choices, all at a pace more their own. It means not yelling and controlling instead connecting with our child. Peaceful parenting often means starting over and learning to behave better as a parent – modeling empathy to our children. I’ll never forget one stressful morning when I had reached my breaking point and started yelling. My daughter tearfully still insisted in reply to my commands, “No Thank you – I am using my manners.” It was humbling to realize that indeed I had lost my manners and this tiny little creature was behaving more graceful and mature in the face of confrontation than I. Peaceful parenting means I end up saying “I’m sorry – please forgive me; It was wrong of me.” – A lot! The amazing thing was once I reached out in a calm and empathetic way she responded with willingness. Trust that children will learn to make good choices within limits you set for them when you have taken the time to build a safe and loving connection with them and approach confrontation in a way that validates their feelings. They grow into the type of person we live out in front of them. So, no I’m not a model example of gentle parenting, but I am striving to be better and better at it each day. All that to say, I expect that same consciousness toward gently nurturing her spirit from the teachers and school staff I share her with every day. The only way to know this is happening is to be involved at the school. From what I’ve seen, most schools welcome parent involvement and your child will look forward to the times you can be there.
I also highly recommend looking for ways to make sure your mornings are less rushed, so that you can start the day as peacefully as possible.
A few of my favorite resources:
Janet Lansbury: Elevating Child Care: www.janetlansbury.com
Dr. Laura Markham : Aha! Parenting: www.ahaparenting.com
Tom Hobson : www.teachertomsblog.blogspot.com
Sir Ken Robinson: www.sirkenrobinson.com
Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyr University. She has over 8 years experience as a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine. Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008. You can reach her at email@example.com or